A situation is never as good or bad as it seems at a given point in time.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Merriam-Webster defines the verb control as:
  • ·         to direct the behavior of (a person or animal) : to cause (a person or animal) to do what you want
  • ·         to have power over (something)
  • ·         to direct the actions or function of (something) : to cause (something) to act or function in a certain way

In reality, control over other people or animals is a myth. We can encourage other people (or animals) to act in a way that we desire but there is no guarantee that they will do it.

In the workplace, a company can have an employee manual that covers every aspect of a job and what to do, not do, and how it should be done. In reality, once the worker is in their cube, they will do things their way if they think they can get away with it.

Parents give everything they have in raising children to bring them up correctly and teach them right from wrong. In most cases, by the time the kids reach the mid teens, they have a mind of their own and there is little that parents can do other than pray.

Couples, in relationships, will do everything within their power trying to train, mold, and shape their mate into the person they want to be with. In most cases, you are stuck with the person you hooked up with.

Nothing is more frustrating for humans than to try to exert control or change other people. The only control that anyone actually has is over themselves and how they react to a situation or something someone else does.

One of the better tips in trying to stay calm and off the roller-coaster is to stop trying to control the actions of others and to focus on things within you.

The Serenity Prayer which is attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1930’s is the mantra of many who seek to rid themselves of issues related to control.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”

Memorize it, and try to heed its wisdom.

There are few true “accidents”

For years, in raising children, when something undesirable happened, the first thing you would hear was “It was an accident.” That was always the “go to” answer to seek absolution of the misdeed. 

Merriam-Webster defines an accident as “an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance.”

In reality, there are few events that qualify as a true accident. There is an entire science of “Root Cause Analysis” that explores all the dynamics of events that led to the final outcome or “accident.”

Many “accidents” are complicated and take educated personnel to find the cause. When the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded during its ascent, thousands of man-hours of the smartest folks available got to the bottom of the cause.

The majority of “accidents” are not that complicated. When a child knocks over a glass of milk, the most likely cause was inattention or carelessness. It could have been prevented by the child paying attention or the parent using a sippy cup since an uncapped glass of liquid near a child has a good chance of being tipped, especially if there is a history of it happening before.

Automobile “accidents” are also foreseeable. Defensive driving and seeing unsafe conditions coming before they result in a collision can avoid most accidents. The best rule is to always expect the other driver to do something irrational or unexpected.

You cannot live your entire life in a cocoon, avoiding every potential negative action but you can develop an inner sense of learning to “see over the horizon” and anticipate negative events that can be avoided. 

History is the best teacher so learning from mistakes or past occurrences is a vital tool in keeping life on an even keel and close to your center. 

Plan your decisions

So many situations in life are foreseeable. Rarely does something happen completely “out of the blue.”

Most folks that are living life on a roller-coaster repeatedly run in to the same (or similar) patterns that trigger their ride to highs and lows in their lives that pull them away from the peaceful center.

One method to combat getting drawn on to the roller-coaster is to plan ahead and make your decisions, in advance, outside the heat of the moment.

During a period of relative calm in your life, take a self assessment of things that have led you away from your center in the past. Most likely, it is not a long list and there is a high probability that there is a commonality to the many of triggers on your list.

It may be easier to do this with a friend or someone who is a good, unbiased listener.

Once you have established your triggers. Take an honest look at how they have affected you in the past and the roller-coaster ride that ensued. 

If you want to avoid the same result, make your decision in advance. Take a good honest look at what your triggers are and make one final decision when you are not in the heat of the moment, and declare to yourself that you mean it and stick with it when the situation arises in the future.

Planning ahead is not a foolproof system but it can be one more tool in your bag to defend against the ongoing battle of life’s highs and lows.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


One of my favorite drives in the world is the beautiful “Scenic Byway 12” that runs from Red Canyon to Torrey in Southern Utah. 

The route defies description. “Scenic Byway 12 spans a route of 124 miles, and travels through some of the most diverse, remote and ruggedly beautiful landscapes in the country. It runs through Utah’s Garfield and Wayne Counties and is home to two national parks, three state parks, a national recreation area, a national monument, and a national forest.

Along the way you will also discover that Scenic Byway 12 takes you through memorable landscapes, ranging from the remains of ancient sea beds to one of the world’s highest alpine forests, and from astonishing pink and russet stone turrets to open sagebrush flats. The history and culture of the area blend together, making Scenic Byway 12 a journey like no other. “

A portion of the route is along a curvy, spine of a ridge where leaving the road on either side would result in a deathly crash with a fall in excess of a quarter mile. Surprisingly, in this era of highway safety precautions, very little of the area has guardrails.

The burden of life or death lies with the driver himself. He must carefully choose the middle ground or risk sure death if he leaves the road. 

Not all choices in life involve instant or painful death when you go outside the bounds but there are degrees of risk every time you leave the middle or safer route. 

Choosing to stay within your own personal guardrails is always the safest and smoothest way to travel the Byways of Life.

Forks in the Road

Imagine you are on a cross country trip where you are only driving on back roads and intentionally steer clear of major highways and interstates. Virtually, thousands of times you will come to an intersection or a fork in the road where you must choose which way to go. 

Without a detailed map (or GPS) you could easily end up driving in a circle or constantly going out of your way on your journey to your destination. The shortest route will obviously be the one that resembles a straight line from your origin to your end point.

Each intersection or fork presents you to make a decision of choosing the most direct route or choosing to head down a rabbit trail. Life presents you with the same type of decisions all day every day.

When an issue or question arises, we choose which way to go. We can travel level ground or jump on our roller-coaster. We can react or accept the situation. We can choose to be a victim or take responsibility and move forward.

We may not be able to control our situation or what others do, but we can always choose how we react. The key is to search for the middle ground.

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Society of Victims

There has been a major cultural shift in the United States over the last sixty years in the way society looks at an individual’s plight in life.

After World War II there was a mentality of rugged individualism, a term coined by Herbert Hoover during his time as president. It refers to the idea that each individual should be able to help themselves out. Folks in general, took pride in being responsible for their own actions and the results of those actions.

Today, we have morphed in to something nearly opposite the self responsibility that rugged individualism entailed. There are many reasons that contributed to the change but we have arrived at the point where many in society choose not to accept responsibility of their actions or choices and shift the blame to others or their circumstances.

We have become a society of victims where everything that happens is the result of a person’s situation, upbringing, job (or lack of one), or any number of excuses.

Television shows and the media have glamorized anyone willing to whore themselves out as a victim in order to get their “fifteen minutes of fame.” 

So basically, being a victim has not only become socially acceptable, it has been glamorized and encouraged.

No one who walks this planet is immune from being a “victim” of some set of circumstances.

The difference between today and our grandparent’s day is how people respond to their situation. 

In the old days, there was pride in overcoming obstacles. Today, people chose to be victims as an excuse not to have to overcome the trials of life.

As we go forward, we will look at emotions that drive our roller-coaster in the same light. 
We can make choices as to how we choose to react to emotional stimuli to avoid becoming victims of our circumstances.

Life is a Roller-coaster

Life in today’s Western society can be described as a never-ending roller-coaster where the daily ride is full of emotional highs and lows as we make it through the muddle of our frantic, non-stop existence.

Emotions are the force that power our roller-coaster and drives us away from the peaceful, tranquil, middle of inner peace.

Over 2300 years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle came up with his list of emotions.

  • Anger: An impulse to revenge that shall be evident, and caused by an obvious, unjustified slight with respect to the individual or his friends. Slights have three species: contempt, spite, and insolence. 
  • Mildness:  The settling down and quieting of anger. 
  • Love: Wishing for a person those things which you consider to be good—wishing them for his sake and not your own--and tending so far as you can to affect them.
  • Enmity (hatred): Whereas anger is excited by offences that concern the individual, enmity may arise without regard to the individual as such. Anger is directed against the individual, hatred is directed against the class as well.
  • Fear:  A pain or disturbance arising from a mental image of impending evil of a painful or destructive sort.
  • Confidence: The opposite of fear.  Confidence is the hope (anticipation), accompanied by a mental image, of things conducive to safety as being near at hand, while causes of fear seem to be either non-existent or far away.
  • Shame: A pain or disturbance regarding that class of evils, in the present, past, or future, which we think will tend to our discredit.
  • Shamelessness: A certain contempt or indifference regarding the said evils.
  • Benevolence: The emotion toward disinterested kindness in doing or returning good to another or to all others; the same term represents the kind action as an action; or the kind thing done considered as a result.
  • Pity:  A sense of pain at what we take to be an evil of a destructive or painful kind, which befalls one who does not deserve it, which we think we ourselves or someone allied to us might likewise suffer, and when this possibility seems near at hand.
  • Indignation: A pain at the sight of undeserved good fortune. 
  • Envy: A disturbing pain directed at the good fortune of an equal.  The pain is felt not because one desires something, but because the other persons have it.
  • Emulation: A pain at what we take to be the presence, in the case of persons who are by nature like us, of goods that are desirable and are possible for us to attain--a pain felt, not because the other persons have these goods, but because we do not have them as well.
  • Contempt: The antithesis of emulation (Persons who are in a position to emulate or to be emulated must tend to feel contempt for those who are subject to any evils [defects and disadvantages] that are opposite to the goods arousing emulation, and to feel it with respect to these evils).

Each one of these emotions, depending on the circumstances and severity, drive us up or down the roller-coaster and away from the middle, neutral ground of our center.

Regardless of the positive or negative nature of the emotion driving our roller-coaster the eventual outcome is that we are drained from the experience.

So how do we find our middle and avoid the stress and toll that the emotional roller-coaster takes on our body, mind, and spirit? Going forward, we will look at some ideas to try to live more of our life in the middle where inner peace reigns.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

So What Does Middle Mean?

According to Dictionary.com

mid·dle  [mid-l]  
1. equally distant from the extremes or outer limits; central: the middle point of a line; the middle singer in a trio.
2. intermediate or intervening: the middle distance.
3.medium or average: a man of middle size.
4. ( initial capital letter ) (in the history of a language) intermediate between periods classified as Old and New or Modern: Middle English.
5. Grammar . (in some languages) noting a voice of verb inflection in which the subject is represented as acting on or for itself, in contrast to the active voice in which the subject acts, and the passive voice in which the subject is acted upon, as in Greek, egrapsámēn  “I wrote for myself,” égrapsa  “I wrote,” egráphēn  “I was written.”
6. ( often initial capital letter ) Stratigraphy . noting the division intermediate between the upper and lower divisions of a period, system, or the like: the Middle Devonian.

7. the point, part, position, etc., equidistant from extremes or limits.
8. the central part of the human body, especially the waist: He gave him a punch in the middle.
9. something intermediate; mean.
10. (in farming) the ground between two rows of plants.
verb (used with object), verb (used without object), mid·dled, mid·dling.
11. Chiefly Nautical . to fold in half.

before 900; Middle English, Old English middel;  cognate with German mittel;  akin to Old Norse methal  among. See mid1

1. equidistant, halfway, medial, midway. 7. midpoint. Middle, center, midst indicate something from which two or more other things are (approximately or exactly) equally distant. Middle denotes, literally or figuratively, the point or part equidistant from or intermediate between extremes or limits in space or in time: the middle of a road. Center a more precise word, is ordinarily applied to a point within circular, globular, or regular bodies, or wherever a similar exactness appears to exist: the center of the earth;  it may also be used metaphorically (still suggesting the core of a sphere): center of interest. Midst usually suggests that a person or thing is closely surrounded or encompassed on all sides, especially by that which is thick or dense: the midst of a storm.

1. extreme. 7. extremity.